Yesterday morning a couple of us went out to the Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River. To get there we took the Dixon Rd exit off of I-530 onto Harper Rd then Frazier Pike. On this outing we hoped to see field birds and river birds; more specifically Bobwhites and Least Terns.
On Harper Rd we followed fields and a wooded stream. On the power lines we saw Indigo Buntings, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Doves, and Pigeons. Out in the fields we observed Red-winged Blackbirds and heard the “tee tee-yer” of the Eastern Meadowlark. Chats and Common Yellowthroats called from thickets as well as Cardinals. Turkey Vultures and Mississippi Kites put on a soaring clinic. We played the usual game of power line chase with at least 5 Kestrels. They didn’t like our presence but didn’t want to leave their favorite hunting perch. I believe that there were at least 2 breeding pairs of Kestrels.
Further along on Harper, we approached a small neighborhood. Despite the rural setting of the neighborhood it offered several urban birds including House Sparrows and European Starlings. Cowbirds and Cardinals vocalized from among the houses while Mockingbirds and Grackles paraded about the lawns. Carolina Wrens called from around the homes probably trying to invade the dwellings.
As we turned onto Frazier Pike we encountered several fields. The barbed wire lining the fields yielded 4 Shrikes. One Shrike carried around a giant grasshopper which was soon to be impaled. As we turned off Frazier and entered the Corps of Engineers park we drove by a dirt pit and saw a few Barn Swallows. This dirt pit is usually home to Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and Barn Swallows as well as Cattle Egret (actually they are usually observed in adjacent fields), Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Killdeer.
The park mainly consists of Bottomland Hardwoods as well as the river, lock and dam, a few assorted ponds, and small sections of scrub. The woods were home to singing Chickadees, Titmice, and Wrens as wells as Prothonotary Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Blue Jays. We drove along the river and heard a frantic sounding Orchard Oriole that sang so quickly that it almost sounded like a Warbling Vireo; appropriate habitat for both. A Great Crested Flycatcher flew around the forest/scrub edge.
At the dam we looked over the turbulent waters. We were hoping to see some nonbreeding American White Pelicans that stay on the river, especially around the dams, during the breeding season. We saw neither Pelicans or any species of Heron/Egret. We watched several Cliff Swallows, which nest on the concrete structures of the dam. While watching the swallows we saw a bigger swallow-esque bird with white wings and white body. This was one of our target birds the Least Tern. We only saw one foraging in the turbulent waters.
Altogether we saw 31 different species of birds. During the summer when the birding slows, whether it be for parental duties of the birds or the late summer molt/migration doldrums, we watch other wildlife especially Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Damselflies. These, like birds, are easy to observe and photograph and are incredibly ecologically and behaviorally interesting, in our opinion. So on our trip today we saw several of these watchable arthropods:
- Variegated Fritillary
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Dainty Sulphur
I’m sure we saw more but these are the ones that stood out.